Historic Spring College Football Season Set to Begin
February 1, 2021
IRVING, Texas (Jan. 28, 2021) – The National Football Foundation (NFF) highlighted today the more than 310 schools and 35 conferences playing college football this spring at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Division II, Division III and NAIA levels. FBS independent New Mexico State will also play games this spring.
“We salute these schools and conferences on giving their student-athletes the opportunity to play college football this spring,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “The FBS, as well as some schools at lower levels, showed this past fall that a season is possible despite the challenges caused by the pandemic. These 310 schools and 35 conferences have taken the lessons from the fall, and they are preparing for a safe spring season for the student-athletes who play our game, many for their coveted final senior years. The players, the coaches, administrators, parents, fans, medical staff and many more all deserve huge praise for coming together to play.
“We would also like to salute all of the FCS, DII, DIII and NAIA schools that played in the fall and will therefore not be playing this spring. They also deserve huge praise for finding a way forward during this unprecedented time.”
Although 17 FCS programs played at least one game in the fall, more than 100 FCS teams will begin their seasons in either February or March. The NCAA has approved an FCS spring playoff while reducing the bracket from 24 schools to 16. The bracket will be revealed on Sunday, April 18. The four rounds of the playoffs will be conducted each of the next four weekends, ending with the national championship game on Saturday, May 15, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
The majority of NAIA conferences offering football will begin their seasons in either February or March. Sixteen teams will qualify for the NAIA playoffs, with three rounds of competition beginning April 17 on campus before the 65th Annual NAIA Football National Championship on May 10 at Eddie G. Robinson Stadium in Grambling, Louisiana. The Great Plains Athletic Conference, Heart of America Athletic Conference and North Star Athletic Association all completed their seasons in the fall, and their champions and other members are eligible for the NAIA playoffs.
Four Division II conferences, as well two independents, and 14 Division III conferences are set to kick off their seasons in either February or March. Ten Division II schools and six Division III teams played at least one game in the fall. The NCAA canceled the official postseasons for Division II and III, but many of the conferences will host their own championship games.
Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS)
New Mexico State, which competes in the FBS as an independent, will play three games starting on Feb. 20.
Football Championship Subdivision (FCS)
(For complete spring conference schedules, where available, click the hyperlinks below.)
Big Sky Conference – Eight teams will compete in a six-game conference-only schedule beginning on Feb. 27. Four other conference teams intend to play a smaller non-conference schedule to be determined.
Big South Conference – Five teams will compete in a four-game conference schedule beginning March 13, with up to four non-conference games starting as early as Feb. 27.
Colonial Athletic Association – Eleven teams will compete in a six-game conference schedule beginning on March 6, with up to two non-conference games starting as early as Feb. 20.
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference – Six teams will compete in a four-game conference-only schedule beginning on Feb. 20. The MEAC will hold its first-ever conference championship game on April 17, and the winner will earn an automatic qualifier to the FCS Playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Northeast Conference – Six teams will compete in a four-game conference schedule beginning March 5.
Ohio Valley Conference – Eight teams will play a seven-game conference schedule beginning Feb. 21. Teams have the option to play one non-conference game that would take place the weekend of Feb. 13-14.
Patriot League – Six teams will play a four-game conference schedule beginning March 13. (Full schedule release TBD.)
Pioneer Football League – Eight teams will play a six-game conference schedule beginning March 13. Non-conference games begin as early as Feb. 20.
Southland Conference – Seven teams will play a six-game conference schedule beginning Feb. 20. Non-conference games begin as early as Feb. 13.
Southwestern Athletic Conference – Ten teams will play a six-game conference schedule beginning Feb. 26. Each school has the option to play one non-conference game as early as Feb. 21.
Independents – New FCS teams Tarleton State and Dixie State will play as independents this spring. Tarleton will start its eight-game season on Feb. 13 while Dixie State will begin its six-game schedule on Feb. 27.
Great Lakes Valley Conference – Eight teams in two divisions will play a scrimmage on March 27 followed by three weeks of divisional play. The final week of the season will be April 24 when each team will play its seeded counterpart from the other division, highlighted by the top-seeded teams from each division battling for the GLVC Championship.
Great Midwest Athletic Conference – Seven teams will play a six-game conference schedule starting March 13.
Mountain East Conference – Twelve teams will be scheduled to play a five-game divisional lineup beginning March 11. The winner from each division will play for the conference championship in mid-April.
Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference – The conference is not playing a spring season, but member New Mexico Highlands is playing against New Mexico State on Feb. 27.
South Atlantic Conference – Nine teams will compete in a four-game conference schedule beginning March 6. The football teams have been divided into two divisions based on geography, and the top team from each division will play in a conference championship game.
Independents – New football programs Barton (NC) and Erskine (SC) will begin their inaugural seasons against each other on Feb. 27. Barton will play a five-game schedule while Erskine will play eight games.
American Rivers Conference – Nine teams will each play three conference games starting March 27, with Dubuque (IA) playing a fourth game due to the structure for the conference schedule.
American Southwest Conference – Ten teams in two divisions will play five weeks of divisional games beginning Feb. 6. The final week of the season will be March 13 when each team will play its seeded counterpart from the other division, highlighted by the top-seeded teams from each division battling for the ASC Championship.
College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin – Nine teams will play up to five conference games starting March 20. There will be no conference championship.
Empire 8 – Four teams will play a three-game round-robin conference schedule beginning March 22.
Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference – Eight teams will play a seven-game round robin conference schedule starting Feb. 27.
Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association – Seven teams will play five conference games beginning March 20.
Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference – Eight teams in two divisions will play three weeks of divisional games beginning March 20. The NACC Playoffs will be April 10, where the top seed in the north will take on the second seed in the south and the top seed in the south will host the second seed in the north. The two winners will then play for the NACC title on April 17, while the losers will play a third-place game. There will also be a consolation bracket for the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds.
Northwest Conference – Six teams have at least one game scheduled for the spring starting Feb. 6.
Ohio Athletic Conference – Ten teams in two divisions will play four divisional games starting March 12. The final week of the season will be April 16 when each team will play its seeded counterpart from the other division, highlighted by the top-seeded teams from each division battling for the OAC Championship.
Old Dominion Athletic Conference – Nine teams will compete in four conference games over a five-week period starting Feb. 26. In week six, results from the previous four games will be used to set matchups for a fifth game. Crossover play, pitting 1v2, 3v4, 5v6 and 7v8 in the conference standings, will take place on April 2, with the contest between the top two teams serving as the first-ever ODAC Championship game.
Presidents’ Athletic Conference – Ten teams in two divisions will play four divisional games starting March 12. The final week of the season will be April 23 when each team will play its seeded counterpart from the other division, highlighted by the top-seeded teams from each division battling for the PAC Championship.
Southern Athletic Association – Eight teams will each play four conference games beginning Feb. 6, with the SAA Championship Game scheduled for March 13.
Upper Midwest Athletic Conference – Eight teams in two divisions will play four divisional games beginning March 27. The final week of the season will be May 8 when the top three seeds from each division will compete against each other while the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds from the North division will also face off. The game between the No. 1 seeds will determine the UMAC champion.
USA South Athletic Conference – Seven teams in two divisions will play four games starting Feb. 20. The winners of the divisions will compete in the USA South Championship game on April 3.
Frontier Conference – Eight teams will play up to five conference games beginning March 13 and ending April 10 prior to the NAIA playoffs.
Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference – The conference, which features 11 schools, split its schedule across the fall and spring. Games will resume on March 6.
Mid-South Conference – The conference’s seven-team Sun Division played its games in the fall. The 15 teams in its other two divisions will begin play on Feb. 6.
Mid-States Football Association – The conference, which features 15 teams in two divisions including provisional member Madonna (MI), will begin its season on Feb. 6.
Sooner Athletic Conference – Eight teams will begin play on Feb. 19. Conference teams played a handful of games in the fall.
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